Sunday 16 February 2020

Cyberfeminism - AI and Gender Biases

Cyberfeminism: Artificial Intelligence and the Unconscious Biases

Cyberfeminism had grand ambitions for the internet; however, it failed to acknowledge that the internet does not necessarily represent a fresh start or a free space in which gender does not matter, but is a new space that is very much embedded in society, and that sexist, racist etc. assumptions are imported into the cyberspace. Online spaces and innovative technologies are human creations and therefore biased from their very creation. Nonetheless, although the internet and online technologies are an extension of society, replicating the same problems therein, and even if the platforms are somehow biased, it still represents a separate space for expression, which “negotiates the border” between our public and private lives (Harris, 2008, p.491). It presents opportunities for self-creation and reinvention of identity. This separate space, of course, also offers new opportunities for harassment, exacerbating certain types of behaviours because of the possibility for the perpetrator to hide behind the anonymity of the internet (Evans, 2015). All this leads us to the necessity of questioning the idea of space, safe space, and online versus offline identities and more importantly, to understanding the importance feminist activism online plays in shaping those safe spaces and identities. (Paula Ranzel)
Mia Consalvo defines cyberfeminism as:
  1. a label for women—especially young women who might not even want to align with feminism's history—not just to consume new technologies but to actively participate in their making;
  2. a critical engagement with new technologies and their entanglement with power structures and systemic oppression. (in "Cyberfeminism"Encyclopedia of New Media, SAGE Publications)
Bruce Grenville in The Uncanny: Experiments in Cyborg Culture mentions: "The dominant cyberfeminist perspective takes a utopian view of cyberspace and the Internet as a means of freedom from social constructs such as gender, sex difference and race. For instance, a description of the concept described it as a struggle to be aware of the impact of new technologies on the lives of women as well as the so-called insidious gendering of technoculture in everyday life.".

It has been proved in several researches that the unconscious biases are creeping in the coding of Artificial Intelligence also. Virtual world is nothing but mirror image of real world. The AI coders are also human beings. If these coders are unconsciously biased or are not made about their unconscious gender biases, the aritificial intelligence / machines / robots / algorithm made by them is bound to have similar biases. If this is not given serious consideration then the hope that people dreamt of, the world free of gender bias, will be lost, even in this digital era.

Here are some interesting observations made by these researchers:

1. Kirti Sharma: How to keep human bias out of AI?

2. Robin Hauser: Can we protect AI from our biases?

Additional resources:

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